Just one more point from the Otis Gibson de-briefing memo (courtesy of WICB Expose). At one point, in a list of the West Indian players’ shortcomings, it includes this sentence: “Player commitment is only financial.”
I understand the general idea motivating this criticism. Cricket is an international sport, and players should own up to the special responsibility of representing their nation. But isn’t this a rather quaint statement of purpose in the age of the IPL and T20-Sanford leagues and what not? And is it right to ask someone like, say M. Amir, a man of extremely humble origins and on a limited salary, not to be motivated for more financial stability?
In fact, given the level of risk a cricketer assumes in pursuing an international career, as well as the demands put on the modern athlete, isn’t the prospect of excellent compensation somewhat justified? It’s one thing if you’re a West Indies player in 1975, when Test cricket was still a gentleman’s sport relatively untouched by Kerry Packer and the broadcast allure. But those times are obviously gone — and indeed, in the IPL, the only motivation a foreign, established player has is money (domestic players, of course, are angling for a spot in the national team).
I don’t care if a player is playing only for money, or only for country, or — most likely the case — a mix of both. As long as the performance is top-class, and no laws/rules are being broken (sorry, Amir), play for whatever reason you want. Of course, the WICB may not have as much money on hand to pay its cricketers as the BCCI does — but this is all the more reason to cut down on Burger King costs and extraneous salaries. Lectures of Gibson’s kind likely go only so far.
DB, you are on a blogging-run these days!
I don’t agree here though. Bill Simmons, who talks about this a lot, tends to argue that athletes are primarily about winning “what counts”, but are also status conscious (they want to be paid what they are worth). There is also a more general issue with keeping someone contracted on a high pay playing well.
From the perspective of the West Indies this is a problem on three fronts: 1) since their decline they don’t play high status series (except the World Cups), and whereas the 80s team tended to play for Caribbean pride, the West Indies seems more fragmented now; 2) The WICB can’t pay them what they deserve, so they don’t want to play for the national side unless they have to, whereas the 70/80s cricketers were paid to play to their abilities in WSC and county cricket; 3) Something I talked about here, you can get into the Windies national side without working super-hard, so it is full of players that aren’t motivated – performance pay would help a lot.
Gibsons’ complaint is largely structural though. As long as cricket is organised predominantly through bilateral tours, and international, not domestic cricket, then you’ll have talented, under-paid players wishing they were elsewhere. Also, don’t think players wouldn’t want to win the IPL: you have to play 20 odd days of cricket to win it, more than the world cup or any bilateral series, in closely fought games with big crowds, against some of the best players in the world. That’s much much more motivating than Australia’s post-wc tour of Bangladesh, or Pakistan’s tour of the West Indies.
Thanks for the comment, Russ.
So even if the WICB paid the Windies play top dollar, you don’t think these players would perform better because they are in “low status” series?
I think the West Indian players will always struggle to motivate themselves for short series that are framed in the world media as a prelude to something more important, such as WI in England ’09 or India in WI this year. That said, that ought to be a motivating factor in itself, in the same way Bangladesh always want teams to take them seriously.
These are problems for all the nations outside the big-4. Some deal with it better than others, but an awful lot of the international cricket played is tediously meaningless, and the players feel it.
I’m relatively young, so I don’t know what cricket looked like before 1996. Was this gap between the Big-4 and the rest always evident? Or has it grown of late as professionalism’s diktats have unevenly spread?
DB, you make me sound old. Short answer is: a lot poorer. Something like 2/3 of every team’s total 4-yearly revenue is derived from India, so before ’96 when that amount was near enough to zero, only England had a professional domestic setup, and the popular teams to have tour were the good ones – which, by luck or by virtue of playing more county cricket at the time, or through less relative professionalism were (in the 80s) the three stragglers now: Pak, WI and NZ. The money from satellite tv only really began after ’96, and it was that money that made hosting the big-4 so popular (though South Africa’s earning are not much better than NZ). You can see this quite clearly if you look at the number of matches WI played per series over the last 20 years.
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